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Christ's mission, — That he was " a teacher sent from
God," we cordially admit. That " life and incorruption
were brought to light," to clear and unclouded light, ^' by
his gospel," we rejoice to know and to acknowledge.
But that the sole, or even the principal design of his com-
ing was, to confirm the certainty of a future state, and
assure mankind of a judgment to come, we cannot by any
means, allow. — We assert, that he came in the character
not tfnly of a prophet, but of a priest ; not to instruct
merely, but to redeem ; not only to set an example of obe-
dience, but to atone for transgression, — " to put away sin
by the sacrifice of himself :" — that when life and incor-
ruption are said to have been brought to light by the gos-
pel, the meaning is, not merely that the doctrine of a future
state was certified to men ; but that by his " finishing the
work given him to do," the ground of hope was laid, and
the way to the enjoyment of eternal happiness in that
state clearly and fully made known.

When we consider that the period denominated " the
fulness of the time," — the period of the expected Mes-
siah's advent, — holds so prominent a place in the Old
Testament Scriptures ; appearing there as the point to
which all preceding time looked forward ; — that what was
then to be accomplished was brought before the eye of
hope by so vast a variety of typical institutions ; — that it
constituted " the spirit of prophecy ;" being the theme of
its sublimest and most rapturous anticipations, the burden
of its sweetest songs, the chief of its great and precious
promises ; — that those ^* holy men of God who spake as
they were moved by the Holy Ghost," exhausted on this
subject the language of astonishment, and of delight :—

184j on the DOCTRIXE

wlicu wc consider all this, we .should have good reasou.
surely, to be surprised, if, after all, the sum of what was
to be accomplished at that remarkable epoch, was nothing
more than the confirmation of a truth already known.

AMiile we readily admit, therefore, that the object of the
mission of Christ is what ought supremely to engage our
attention, we conceive that, even from previous and pre-
paratory circumstances, there was strong ground to con-
clude, that this object was to be something more than what
has now been stated ; — we are convinced that it actually
was sometliing more ; — and that tlie purpose of his appear-
ing Avas so far from having no connexion with the doctrine
of his Divinity, that liis Divinity was essential to it^ ac-

Further ; if the fact be indeed, as I have been endeav-
ouring to prove, that God was manifested in the flesh ; the
greatness and singularity of the fact may well convince us
of the magnitude of the design. An event so prodigious
as the appearance of God in our nature, could not take
place, either for no purpose, or for a purpose of trifling
moment. The God of infinite wisdom does nothing in
vain. Every eflbrt of his power has an end in view ; an
end always worthy of himself in its nature, and in its im-
portance, proportionate to the means employed for its ac-
complishment. — The two great general purposes which
are constantly regarded by him, in all liis works, and in
all his ways, are, the manifestation of his own glory, and,
in connexion with it, the happiness of his sensitive, and
especially of his intelligent creatures. Both of tliese pur-
poses we consider as having been eminently answered, by
the incarnation, suflerings, and death, of the Son of God,
when viewed in that light in which we believe the word
of God to represent tliem, — as an atonement for the sins
of the world.

In the preceding part of this epistle, the apostle had


proved, by an appeal to facts, the universal depvavity of
Gentiles and of Jews. At the tenth verse of this chapter^
l>e proceeds to show, that the conclusion, to which facts
had conducted him, accorded with the declarations of
those Scriptures, of which tlie Jews acknowledged the
Divine authority. — Having established the sinfulness, he
declares the guilt and condemnation of all mankind ; — he
shows the impossibility of any creature's obtaining justifi-
cation by a law which he has violated, and which, in the
plainest and most unqualified terms, pronounces against
all transgressors the sentence of death ; — on the hopeless-
ness of this wretched state, he founds the necessity of free
forgiveness ; — and he then points out the leading object
of the mediation of Christ ; which was, to render the ex-
ercise of God's mercy, in bestowing such forgiveness, con-
sistent, in the eyes of his intelligent creation, with the
claims of his dishonoured authority, the demands of his
justice, the glory of his holiness, tlie rectitude of his moral
administration, and the general good of the universe,

" Whom'' (i. e. Christ Jesus, verse 24. ) — " Whom God
hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood,
to declare his righteousness, for the remission of sins that
are past through the forbearance of God ; — to declare at
this time his .righteousness, that he might be just, and the
justifiev of him who believeth in Jesus."

From these verses, 1 propose to illustrate, and prove,
the five following observations : —

I. It is in consideration of the Sacrifice of Christ, that
God is propitious to sinners :

II. In pardoning the guilty on this ground, God dis-
plays his righteousness :

III. The ground on which the pardon of sin is bestow-
ed, has been, in every age, and under every dispensation,
the same :



IV. An interest in tbc pardoning mercy of God, through
Jesus Christ, is obtained by faith :

V. In resting our hope of forgiveness on the atoning
Sacrifice of Christ, we buihl on a sure foundation.

To say all that might be said, in a field so extensive as
this, is more than could well be done iti several discourses.
It is my intention, to confine myself to the more prominent
views of ray subject : and as I am persuaded that the
principal objections, brought against the doctrine of atone-
ment, arise from mistaken apprehensions of its nature, 1
shall endeavour, as much as I can, to avoid controversial
discussion, and, with as gi'eat brevity and simplicity as the
nature of the subject will permit, to state what appears to
be the testimony of God.

I. Let me now, then, proceed to the illustration of the
jirst proposition in the series : — It is in consideration of
the Sacrifice of Christ that God is jfropitioiis to sinners.

There arc, among critics, diflercnt opinions with regard
to the proper import, in this connexion, of the original
word translated, jjvojntiation.* Several, of high eminence,
give it as their judgment that, in its present occurrence, it
ought to be translated propitiatory sacrifice :[ while oth-
ers prefer rendering it propitiatory, or mercy-seat. — To
the latter of these two opinions I am inclined to give the
preference. — The same word occurs in only one other
place in the New Testament : — in an epistle, generally
believed to have been written by tlie same autlior : — Heb.
ix. 5. " And over it (viz. the ark of the covenant) the
cherubim of glory, shadowing the mercy-seat : — in which

t Michaehs' Introduction to tlie New Testament, page 179, anti
pages 187, 188. — Kvpke, as referred to by Micliaelis in both lliese
passages. — Sec also, however, Dr. Marsh's notes on the latter pas-
sage in the same volume, pages H'.i — t.lJ. — Dr. Magee, too, prefer"*
the translation oi' j)r op itiatory Sacrifice. \ol. 1. page 22i.


oceurrence of it, there can be no doubt about its significa-
tion. It is the word also, whicli is invariably used by

the Greek translators of the Old Testament, for that i^art
of the sacred furniture of the Tabernacle. The word
translated, in other passages, propitiatioyi, although of
kindred origin, is different.* On these grounds, I think
the word used in the text should be translated propitiato-
ry^ or mercy-seat. We shall see immediately, however,
that with regard to real effect on the subject now before
us, there is no very material difference, if, indeed, there
be any difference at all,) between the one translation and
the other.

According to the meaning thus assigned to the w^ord,
we have, in the text, an allusion to the mercy-seat under
the law, as a type of Jesus Christ, and of the effects, as
will appear, of his atoning sacrifice. To the institution
of the mercy- seat we must therefore look, that we may
rightly understand the allusion. It is to be found in Ex.
XXV. 17 — 33. " And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of
pure gold : two cubits and a half shall be the length
thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And
thou shalt make two cherubim of gold ; of beaten work
shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy- seat.
And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cher-
ub on the other end ; even of the mercy-seat shall ye make
the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim
shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy-
seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to
another ; toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the
cherubim be. And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above
upon the ark ; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony
that I shall give thee. And there will 1 meet with thee,
and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat,
from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of
* 'l?^xTfi9i. Compare, in the Greek, 1 John ii. 2. iv. 10.


the testimony, of all things that I will give tliee in com-
mandment to tlic children of Israel.''

It is from this description that Jehovah receives the
appellation of — the (lod that dwcUpth between the cheru-
bim;* an appellation which may, consequently, be inter-
preted, as of equivalent import with the New Testament
characters — ''the God of peace'' — '^ the God of all s;race.^^
— The position of the propitiatory, upon the ark of the
testimony, might be intended to indicate the consistency
of his appearing in this benign character, for the [Mirpose
of communing with his guilty creatures, with the claims
and sanctions of his righteous law. So that when Jeho^
vah, the God of Israel, '' shone forth" from between the
cherubim, '' mercy aud truth" miglit be said to '■• meet to-
gether, righteousness and peace to embrace each other."

Surely this cannot fail to remind you of Him, who re-
ceived from God the Father honour and glory, when there
came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, " This
is my beloved Son in icliom I am well pleased /" It is in
him, as the subject either of promise, of prophecy, of typi-
cal institution, or of direct testimony, that God has, all
along from the beginning, made himself known to men, as
^^ the God of peace.'' It is in him that he •• reconciles
the guilty to himself, not imputbig their trespasses unto


Had nothing farther been said respecting the mercy-
seat, we might have been led to conclude, that Jehovah
appeared there in the exercise of mere mercy ; I mean of
mercy, unconnected with any kind of satisfaction for sin.
— With the description of the propitiatory itself, avc must,
however, connect the account which is elsewhere given
of the manner in which it was to be approached by the
worshipper ; the high-priest being expressly enjoined tp

♦ 2 Kings xix. 1/5. Psalm Ixxx. 1.

f 3 Pet. i. 17. Matth. \yii. 5. 2 Cor. v, 19.


draw near to Hira, who dwelt between the cherubim, both
in his own behalf, and in behalf of the people, according
to certain prescribed rites. — A particular account of these
is contained in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Levi-
ticus, of which a few verses will show you their general
nature, sufficiently for our present purpose. Verses 2, 3,
11 — 15. "And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto
Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the
holy place, within the vail, before the mercy-seat, whicl\
is upon the ark, that he die not : for I will appear in the
cloud upon the mercy-seat. Thus shall Aaron come into
the holy place ; with a young bullock for a sin-offfering,
and a ram for a burnt off'ering. — And Aaron shall bring
the bullock of the sin-offering which is for himself, and
shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house,
and shall kill the bullock of the sin-offering which is for
himself. And he shall take a censer full of burning coal*
horn off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of
sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail.
And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord,
that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy- seat
that is upon the testimony, that he die not. And he shall
take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his
finger upon the mercy-seat eastward ; and before the
mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger
seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offer-
ing that is for the people, and bring his blood within the
vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of
the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat, and be«
fore the mercy-seat."

This goat of the sin-offering, as we learn from the in-
termediate verses, was one of two, which Aaron was to
take from the congregation of Israel : — and after it had
})ten thus offered in sacrifice, and its blood brought within
ihe vail, the remaining goat, with all the iniquities of the


children of Israel laid upon its head, by the solemn vica-
rious confession of the hii;h-priest, was to be sent off alive
into the wilderness, bearing away, emblematically, as a
devoted victim, this load of atoned and acknowleds^ed
guilt. — The figure was necessarily double : the slain goat
typifying the atonement of Christy and the scape-goat
representing its efficacy.

But the circumstance which I wish, at present, to im-
press particularly on your attention, is, that the mercy-seat
was to be approached with blood; — with the blood of
atonement ; for such it is, in various parts of the chapter,
expressly declared to have been.* — This blood was to be
brought within the vail, and to be sprinkled on and before
the mercy-seat : — and while the sacrificial blood was thus
presented, the burning incense was, by the cloud of as-
cending smoke, to diffuse its grateful fragrance, in emble-
matic testimony of the Divine satisfaction : — and this
satisfaction is, accordingly, elsewhere ex])ressed, in con-
nexion with the sacrifice of Christ, and with the offerings
by which it was typified, by Jehovah's smelling a sweet

The mercy-seat, then, in order to Jehovah's appearing
there as the God of grace, consistently with the glory of
his name, must, it appears, be stained with the *' blood of
sprinkling,*' — the " blood that maketh atonement for
the soul." — The reason why the blood was specifically
appointed for this purpose is emphatically assigned in the
sul>sequent chapter of the book of Leviticus — " For the
life of the flesh is in the blood ; and 1 have given it to you
upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls : for it
is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.":j:
The blood, then was the atonement for the soul, because

* See verses 6, 30, 34, &c.
t Compare Gen. viii. .'SI with Eph. v. 3. Rev. viii. 3, -i. Psalui
cxlii. 2. \ CIiup. xvii. 11.


it was the life of the victim : — and because it was the
appointed atonement for the soul, it was to be held sacred,
on pain of death.

It is true, that, in the chapter of Leviticus first referred
to. atonement is said to be made for places, and for instru-
ments of service, as well as for persons. — " And he shall
make an atonement for the holy place, because of the un-
cleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their
transgressions in all their sins : and so shall he do for the
tabernacle of the congregation that remaineth among them
in the midst of their uncleanness.— And he shall go out
unto the altar that is before t!ic Lord, and shall make an
atonement for it ; and shall take of the blood of the bul-
lock, and of the blood of the goat, and shall put it upon
the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle
of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse
it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of
Israel."* On this subject, it has been justly remarked,
that the atonement prescribed by the Levitical law " pro-
duced, in all cases, the effect of fitting for the Divine
service. This, in such as involved no consideration of
moral character (as in the consecration of inanimate
things, or the atonement for persons labouring under cere-
monial impurities) could consist only in the removal of the
external impurity; for in such cases, this impediment
alone existed : — while in those in which moral character
was concerned, (as in cases of sin, whereby man, having
incurred the displeasure of God, had disqualified himself
for the offices of his worship,) the unfitness could have
been removed only by such means as, at the same time,
removed that displeasure, and restored the offender to the
Divine favour : or, in other words, the atonement was, in
such cases, an act oi j)rointiation.^^\

* Lev. xvi. 16, 18, 19.
+ Magee on Atonement and Sacrifice, vol. I. pa^e .330.


This distinction seems to he reasoiuible, nnd obviousf.
1 Mould further remark, however, as a good deal of stress
is laid, by the adversaries of the atonement, on the circum-
stance I am now considering, that, in the verses last read,
there is a marked connexion between the atonement for
the holy ])lacc and for tlic instruments of Divine service,
and the pollution and guilt of the children of Israel. It
is from their guilt and pollution tiiat the necessity for such
atonement is represented as arising : — so that the atone-
ment for the holy place, the tabernacle, and the altar, is
still, in some sense, an atonement for the sins of the peo-
ple, which are considered as cleaving to, and polluting,
and unfitting for the service of God, the places and the
instruments of their worship. Of this the verses last quot-
ed are, of themselves, a sufficient evidence. The apostle
Paul, in a similar manner, connects the two ideas of " pu-
rifvins; with lilood the ta])ernacle, and all the vessels of
the ministry," and of the atonement made, by the same
means, " for the errors of the people."*

The law, then, I must now observe (and with the ob-
servation I shall conclude the illustration of the type) —
the law, by which it was enjoined, on pain of death, that
the mercy-seat should not be approached otherwise tlian
u'iili bloody strikingly represented the necessity of the
shedding of the blood of Christ, in order to his being the
true propiliator;/ ; that is, in order to (iod's being " ?>i
him icell pleased,"^^ and thus accessible to sinners, as sup-
pliants for mercy. And, agreeably to this, it may be no-
ticed, that the declaration of God's satisfaction in his be-
loved Son, which came from '* the cxcelkiit glory" on
" the holy mount," was connected with tlie subject of
conference between Jesus and his heavenly visitants, —
'• the decease icliich he was to accomplish at JerasalemJ^

The first of our propositions is furtliev conllrnied, by
■' Sec Hel). ix. 10—3:.


Oie coiTespondence of the current language of Scripture
with the meaning of this particular type, as it has now
been explained. The doctrine of atonement, or propitia-
tion, pervades the whole of the inspired volume. The
following passages, and expressions, are only a selection,
to which a great many more of a similar kind might be
added. — " He was wounded for our transgressions ; he
was bruised for our iniquities ; the chastisement of our
peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we, like sheep, have gone astray ; we have turned
every one to his own way ; and Jehovah hath laid on him
the iniquities of us all :" — '^ For the ti-ansgrcssion of my
people was he striken :'' — '^ Thou shalt make his soul an
offering for sin :" - -^^ He shall bear their iniquities :*' —
•• He bare the sin of many :" — " Behold the Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sin of the world :'* — " The
Son of man is come — to give his life a ransom for many ;"
— " This is ray blood of the new covenant, which is shed
for many, for the remission of sins :"— " The bread which
I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of
the world :" — ^' For when we were yet without strength,
in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely
for a righteous man will one die : yet peradventure for a
good man some would even dare to die. But God com-
mendeth liis love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now
justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath
through him :" — '^ Who gave himself for our sins :" —

Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 16 of 36)